What is cornea surgery?

The cornea is the clear, domed tissue at the front of your eyes. It helps filter light and protect the rest of your eye. If the cornea is damaged by injury or disease, and glasses or contacts cannot correct the resulting vision problems, corneal transplant surgery may be an option for you. With cornea transplant surgery, corneal tissue from a healthy donor eye is used to replace the damaged cornea. 

Am I a candidate for a corneal transplant? 

Your doctor will evaluate your condition fully to see if a corneal transplant surgery may be right for you. Corneal transplants are most commonly used to treat patients who suffer from the following conditions: 

• Keratoconus—Condition in which the cornea is weakened over time and loses its shape.
• Fuchs' dystrophy—Condition in which cells that regulate fluid in the cornea die off, leading to blurry vision. 
• Scarred cornea—Either by injury or infection.
• Recurring infection of the cornea that doesn’t respond to other treatments.
What is corneal transplant surgery like? 

After approval for corneal transplant surgery, you will be placed on a wait list for donor cornea tissue. After donor tissue is available, the surgery will be performed. The donor tissue is rigorously screened to make sure it is healthy before being used in a transplant.  
Corneal transplant surgery is usually short, taking about an hour. 
There are two main types of corneal surgery, penetrating keratoplasty and lamellar keratoplasty. In penetrating keratoplasty, your entire cornea is removed and replaced with donor tissue. In a lamellar keratoplasty, only the inner or outer layer of your cornea is removed. 

1. You will first be put under local or general anesthetic. You shouldn’t feel anything during the surgery. 

2. The doctor will then remove all, or part of your cornea and replace it with donor tissue. 

3. After being grafted onto your eye, the donor tissue will be secured with stitches, which are usually removed within a year after the surgery, after the eye has healed. 

4. Most patients are able to return home the day of their surgery. 
What is recovery like?

After cornea surgery, you will be closely monitored to make sure your body does not reject the transplanted tissue. You will be prescribed steroid eye drops to help your body accept the donor tissue and reduce swelling. 
The doctor will give you a patch to wear to protect your eye. You must be careful not to rub your eyes. Do not participate in any sports or strenuous activity, and avoid swimming for the next several months. You also should not drive unless your doctor gives you approval to do so. If your job does not involve heavy lifting or strenuous activity, you should be able to resume work the week after surgery. 
Your vision will initially be blurry, and may fluctuate as your body adapts to the new tissue. However, your vision should improve within a few months, but could take up to a year to become fully functional again. You may need to be fitted with glasses a few months after surgery. 

What are the risks?

Corneal transplant surgery is generally successful for most patients, however, as with all surgical procedures, you can still be at risk for complications. 
The biggest risk of corneal transplant surgery is your body rejecting the donor cornea. Rejection can occur anywhere from several weeks to several months after the surgery. 

The symptoms of transplant rejection include: 
• Eye redness
• Light sensitivity
• Eye pain
• Clouded vision
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. 
If your body rejects the transplant, the surgery may need to be performed again. 

Other risks of surgery include:
• Astigmatism
• Glaucoma
• Inflammation
• Retinal detachment
• Infection
• Worsening vision

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